Live From Cadogan Hall (DVD)
Racket / Eagle Rock, 2011
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/05/2011
Thirty years into their career (and just over 20 years since Steve Hogarth stepped into the lead singer’s role), is it possible that Marillion could just now be hitting the high water mark of their career?
Well, forget about marking those milestones by watching the charts. Rather, spend two hours watching Live From Cadogan Hall, their latest live DVD (also released on CD). The proof is right there: this, quite possibly, is Marillion’s best work ever.
Recorded on the final night of their Less Is More acoustic tour, Hogarth and crew don’t merely take songs from their catalog and play them the same way they’d attack them with the full electronic arsenal. Instead, like they did on Less Is More, they literally reconstruct each song, allowing them to take on whole new lives of their own.
The end result is stunningly beautiful: 21 songs stripped to their essences, conveying more power than a wall of Marshall amplifiers could even dream of cranking out. While one might consider these works “experimental” in that the band members are using instruments they’re not normally associated with – for example, Mark Kelly on autoharp or Hogarth on hammered dulcimer – these works are fully polished, and have such a level of comfort that one could swear that Marillion had always been playing them this way.
Yes, it’s a little strange hearing songs like “You’re Gone” and “Easter” in slightly different formats, but the new twists put on these songs does make the listener as excited as when they initially pulled the shrinkwrap off the jewel cases and listened to the original CDs the first time. Likewise, songs such as “Beautiful” (which is quickly replacing “You’re Gone” as my favorite Marillion track), “Estonia” and “This Train Is My Life” all absolutely shine. In fact, there is not a bad track to be found in any of the selections here.
Like most of the Marillion DVDs I’ve been reviewing of late, I’ve found myself more inclined to go back and listen to the studio counterparts of many of these tracks, having gained a new respect for them. Songs like “If My Heart Were A Ball,” “Quartz,” and “This Train Is My Life” all made me wonder what I might have missed initially, though I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up favoring these acoustic versions.
Two things strike me about the audience at Cadogan Hall – first, the absolute respect they have for the music. They know this isn’t a typical rock concert, and the way they behave – no constant whooping or hollering, for example – makes one proud to be a Marillion fan. Second, British audiences have to be the most fortunate of all, as they get to see shows like this in the flesh while those of us in the States have to settle for the filmed results.
If I had to find any fault with this show (it is my job, after all) it would be that I’d have liked to have had Hogarth’s microphone turned up louder when he was simply speaking to the audience. The audio level is perfect for his singing, and I understand, having interviewed him several years ago, that he is soft-spoken… but I think Hogarth could keep the audience entertained merely by telling the stories behind the songs.
I’ve said often that Marillion is more of a collective working together to make great music than it is individual musicians, and Live From Cadogan Hall proves this without a doubt. Yes, Steve Rothery gets chances to solo, and he definitely makes a solid claim for the title of “most underrated guitarist”… but contributions from Pete Trewavas and Kelly, not to mention the rhythmic support provided by Ian Mosley, all are equally as important to the whole picture. Without one, it’s simply not Marillion.Live From Cadogan Hall is the kind of show that you wish would never end, but for those two hours that Marillion works its acoustical magic, you’re glad that you’re able to experience it. Yes, at heart Marillion is an electric band (though they have never shied away from using acoustic instruments in their songs), but this release makes it crystal clear that these guys should have been superstars. And, in a sense, they reach that level with this video.